Mayor John Peyton issued an urgent call to action for Jacksonville residents today. Standing inside the food storage facility at Second Harvest Food Bank of North Florida, Mayor Peyton used the shelves with dwindling supplies to illustrate his growing concern about increasing demand for assistance for services from area non-profits as reserves of cash, food and supplies are decreasing.
'The residents of our city, like those in cities across this nation, are facing very difficult economic times. The tough environment is causing people in our community to make extremely difficult choices. There are people in our community right now who didn't have breakfast today, won't have lunch, and will be lucky if they get dinner. We have neighbors that are choosing between food and their mortgage or rent. There are children in Jacksonville who go to school without a winter coat or even a sweater,' said Peyton.
'As mayor, I see my role as two-fold. First, I must continue to lead economic development opportunities. More jobs mean more opportunities for our residents. Secondly, it is my job to make sure that we are all aware of the suffering of our neighbors and lead a community response to the crisis. The people seeking assistance today are our neighbors, our co-workers, the child sitting next to your child at school, or the person in the pew next to you at church.
'What I would ask is this: Donate money if you can. It is the most flexible option for our non-profit community and their relationships with national stores allow them to maximize every dollar. In addition, there are ongoing food drives that are already working with worthwhile organizations. Support them by donating items and asking friends and family to contribute as well. Finally, if you can't contribute food or money this year, please consider volunteering your time. It is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.'
Some of the community's local human services organizations are reporting as much as a 30 to 40 percent increase in the demand for food products over this same time period in 2007. This is coupled with a significant decrease in donations over the same span of time. While Jacksonville's situation mirrors an ongoing national crisis, Peyton said Jacksonville's response has been unique.
'Our non-profit community has an incredible reputation for working together and making sure the needs of the less fortunate among us have food, shelter, and clothing. In addition, the residents of Jacksonville are among the most caring and compassionate anywhere. Collectively, I'm convinced we can direct resources into the non-profit sector to make sure everyone has their basic needs met.'
Following comments to the media, the mayor toured the warehouse facilities at Second Harvest, paying particular attention to the grocery shelves up front. Second Harvest is a distribution operation that provides food items to area non-profits. Most of the food items at Second Harvest are garnered through cash donations and/or food drives. They are able to maximize financial donations by purchasing $53 dollars worth of food items for a single dollar by utilizing its national network providers.
In addition, the mayor will use scheduled events over the next three months to continue to raise awareness of the needs in the local non-profit community.